“I’m certain this hotel’s haunted,” the actress Sofia Wylie says about 15 minutes into our call. When we speak, she’s recently arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she is filming Netflix’s adaptation of Soman Chainani’s beloved fantasy series, The School for Good and Evil. In her first film role, she’ll star alongside seasoned actors like Charlize Theron and Kerry Washington as Agatha, a brooding young girl with a flair for formless black dresses and a bald cat named Reaper — that is, not the kind of character who’s afraid of ghosts. “My TV just turned on, that’s not terrifying at all,” Wylie adds. “I’m definitely going to call my parents to have them come over after this.”
Haunted hotel rooms or not, the work never stops, especially for a Capricorn like Wylie, whose varied pursuits have taken her from dancing backup for Justin Bieber to a modeling contract with IMG, a top agency that also represents Bella Hadid and Ashley Graham. At 17, she’s best known for the role of sophomore transfer student Gina Porter in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which kicks off its second season on Friday (May 14); before that, she entered the Disney Channel fold as the outspoken Buffy Driscoll in Andi Mack. “I think I would get bored if I ever just settled on one thing,” she says. “I just want to keep growing as much as I can.”
When she’s not acting, or modeling, or singing, or fending off spirits, Wylie is a normal teen, trying to earn her high school diploma, decide what comes after and, in her spare time, nail the latest TikTok dance challenge to her favorite Blackpink song. Ahead of the Season 2 premiere of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Wylie tells MTV News about managing it all and what she’s bringing to her debut feature-length role.
MTV News: Could you tell me a little bit about what we can expect from Gina on Season 2 of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series?
Sofia Wylie: Gina is trying to figure out if she’s going to stay at East High. If she does stay, the biggest thing she’s going to struggle with is who she wants to be at East High now that she’s permanently here or here for a longer period of time, because she’s so used to hopping around. She has to figure out who she wants to be in this new place and who she wants to be around, too. She gets to play. I got to act with a lot more actors this season, which I enjoyed so much. And I think a lot of people will enjoy the new dynamics that are experimented with this season, because there’s a lot of relationships and chaos that ensues.
MTV News: Are you also balancing school on top of shooting everything?
Wylie: Sadly, I am. It’s the worst. I am so excited to just get to the finish line. I have a semester and a half left. I’m going to finish a little bit early, which will be nice. I’m just very intrigued by the idea of being on set and just getting to focus on the work because I currently am having to focus on the work and the schoolwork, which is not a fun little balancing act.
MTV News: Are you thinking about college or are you going straight into working as an actress?
Wylie: That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. You’re always told you go to school, you go to more school, then go to work, then you retire, and that’s how your life is. But I’ve realized that it’s not like that for everybody, and I think some of the unconventional ways of living just work better for some people. I think education is so important, but I also want to dedicate my life to acting as much as I can.
MTV News: Right now, you’re shooting The School for Good and Evil. What can you tell us about the show and about your character, Agatha?
Wylie: I’ve been doing a lot of scene-studying and trying to figure out my character because we’re still in pre-production. It’s really exciting taking a book and creating a whole movie or series off of that because you get to bring that character to life. There’s a huge fan base for the books and so many people who love Agatha because of her well-rounded character. She’s so snarky and grouchy but then also has such a good heart and soul. That’s what I really loved about her, reading the books and reading the script, that she has so many layers.
MTV News: What do you hope to bring to the role of Agatha, maybe from your own life or from your own personality?
Wylie: There’s this moment within the books when she realizes she’s always been beautiful. One of her big insecurities is feeling as though she’s hideous and ugly because people have treated her as though she is for so much of her life. And I think that’s such a wonderful message to know that it is not about what is physically there that’s important, but how you see yourself. And the way you see yourself radiates out and that’s what creates beauty. That’s something that I personally can really relate to, that voice inside of your head, how much power it has. I deal with those doubts and those insecurities. And I think I can really bring some realness to Agatha in that sense because I know, as a teenage girl, it can be very difficult to overcome that voice.
MTV News: Are there any moments where you look back and see that you overcame something like that?
Wylie: I think a lot of young girls and boys who look like me, who are mixed, growing up in this world with the specific beauty standards that I might not necessarily fit, it can make you want to just fit into that mold, to change. I definitely did that growing up, where I thought, OK, everyone around me is blonde with straight hair. I need to look like that if I want to be beautiful. I eventually realized I have been blessed with something so unique and that is a part of me. Once I realized that, so many things changed for me. I started booking so many more jobs because I was coming into auditions with a characteristic of myself that makes me stand out and makes me unique.
MTV News: And now you’ve even signed with IMG Models. What is it about the fashion and beauty industries that excite you?
Wylie: I’ll look back at videos on my iPad that I had when I was 6 and there are just these hour-long fashion shows I would put on for myself, these music videos I would create. I’ve always loved fashion and performing. But a lot of people are realizing how important representation is. I’m hoping that for the generation that is coming, that everybody is able to grow up seeing someone who looks like them and knowing that they can do that, too. Seeing someone that looks like you succeed just gives you so much more confidence. I hope that by me pursuing whatever it is within the fashion industry or acting, or singing and dancing, that it allows another young mixed girl to know they can do it, too.
MTV News: I saw you were dancing to a Blackpink song on TikTok. Are there other K-pop groups that you follow?
Wylie: I really like Twice, BTS, and Blackpink. One of my favorite things about K-pop is the performance aspect of it and how each performer has such a unique thing that they bring. I will always be learning their dances at 4 a.m. in the morning.
MTV News: What do you do when you’re procrastinating?
Wylie: I love reading. During a semester that I was really behind, my mom was like, “We can go to Barnes and Noble if you finish your classes early.” So I’m trying to finish my classes as fast as possible and I’m thinking in my head afterward, “Am I really working hard on my schoolwork so that I can then read afterward? Who did I become?”
MTV News: Out of all the things you do — modeling, acting, dancing — what is your biggest passion through it all?
Wylie: That is a very hard question because there have been different points of my life where I would have confidently said dancing is going to be the thing I pursue for the rest of my life, or acting is the thing. I don’t think I ever want to just pursue one thing. And I always want to be very multifaceted in that sense of wanting to produce one day, wanting to direct, wanting to act, wanting to create a clothing line, wanting to do fashion, wanting to model. I think I would get bored if I ever just settled on one thing. I just want to keep growing as much as I can.